While she sleeps, I paint
Valencia oranges across her skin,
seven times the color orange,
a bright tree glittering the limestone grotto of her clavicle—
heaving bonfires pulsing each pale limb
like Nero’s condemned heretics sparking along Via Appia.
A small stream of Prussian blue I’ve trickled
down her bicep. A fat red nasturtium
eddies her inner elbow.
Against her swollen palms,
I’ve brushed glowing halves of avocados
lamping like bell-hipped women in ecstasy.
A wounded Saint Teresa sketched to each breast.
Her navel is a charcoal bowl of figs,
all stem thick with sour milk and gowned
in taffeta the color of bruises.
This to offer up with our flophouse prayers—
God created us with absence
in our hands, but we will not return that way.
Not now, when we are both so capable of growing full
on banquets embroidered by Lorca’s gypsy nun.
She sleeps, gone to the needle’s gentle rocking,
and I lean out the window, a Horus
drunk on my own scent
and midnight’s slow drip of stars.
She has always been more orchard than loved,
I, more bite than mouth.
So much is empty in this hour—
the spoon, still warm, lost in the sheets,
the candle’s yellow-white thorn of flame,
a vanishing ribbon of jade smoke,
and night, open as autumn’s unfilled basket
as the locusts feast the field.
from When My Brother Was an AztecFind it in the library
Copyright © 2012 Natalie Diaz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.